First Day Out

May 31, 2016

Spring is always an exciting time at the farm, and this year even more so because Eleanor hatched eight adorable baby turkeys. She is proving herself to be an excellent first-time mother, which is quite a relief since not all first time turkey moms are up for the task based on what I have read. We have Eleanor and her little ones in a small coop of their own, along with a small fenced area of pasture so that none of the other turkeys or chickens can bother them. Eleanor has been quite attentive to her poults, and she is generally very careful where she puts her large feet when she gets up and walks around in the coop so as not to step on the little ones. However, I have seen her step on the babies on a couple of occasions when she has gotten a bit excited when we have gotten too close to her and the babies, and that’s when I know that it’s time for me to close the coop door and let them have some alone time. For the first week we did not see much of the babies since it was relatively cold outside, and they stayed under Eleanor much of the time except for short periods of eating and drinking. At about a week old, the babies started spending more time out from under their mom. Eleanor was very protective of her little ones though, and every time I would open the coop door to refill the feeder she would make an alarm call and the babies would go dashing back under her for safety. When the poults reached 10 days old, the weather had warmed up enough so that Eleanor brought the babies outside the coop for the first time.

Now that the poults are getting a bit older, Eleanor seems to be slightly less protective of her babies and they are spending more time out from under mom. Poultry that are hen-raised, meaning raised naturally by their mom, tend to be more skittish around humans than poultry that are raised from the chick stage by humans. We have definitely observed this with our flock, and of course it is much more fun to have tame chickens and turkeys than skittish ones that go running in the opposite direction when they see you coming. So it is time for us to begin socializing the little ones so that they get used to us being around and are not afraid to come up to us for treats or hopefully even some lap time one of these days. It is still too early to make any guesses about how many boys and how many girls we have. I usually have bad luck with the male/female ratio whenever we hatch or buy chicks to add to the flock. As you may recall, when we got our first four turkey poults last spring they all turned out to be Turkey Boys, so I am hoping that we get at least a couple of girls in the bunch this time around so that we can add one or two girls to the turkey flock.

These next few weeks are bound to be interesting. I can tell that Eleanor is ready to have a larger area of pasture to roam because she has already jumped over the fence of the pen we have her in with the poults twice today. Luckily she did not go far, and it was easy to shoo her back in with her babies. We will need to keep the babies separated from the rest of the flock until they get big enough so they don’t get accidentally trampled if Ringo decides he wants to give Eleanor some affection. The poults also need a very high protein feed for their first three months, so the longer we can keep them separated from the rest of the flock, the easier it makes feeding time. The little ones are starting to jump up onto a roost that is a foot off of the ground, so I have a feeling they will be jumping over the fence of their pen to escape out into the bigger pasture along with their mom in no time. Of course it will probably be right around the time that I leave for my first vacation in a year and a half. Every time I spend a night away from the farm it seems like all heck breaks loose, so I am pretty certain that my being away from the farm for four nights next month will be the exact time that the turkeys start misbehaving in a serious way. Sean will be here to troubleshoot while I’m away, so the turkeys will be in good hands, if he can catch them that is!